Holocaust Education in Palm Beach County Needs Serious Improvement

Holocaust Education in Palm Beach County Needs Serious Improvement

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Zionist Organization of America - Florida Region started this petition to Palm Beach County School Board and

The undersigned are the Zionist Organization of America -- the oldest pro-Israel organization in the country fighting against antisemitism and vicious anti-Israel bias wherever these problems exist, parents and students in the School District of Palm Beach County. 

We fully support the Inspector General’s investigation into District’s hiring process for selecting its current Holocaust Studies Program Planner. Based on the serious issues that were raised in a recent letter sent to the Palm Beach County School Board by the Gross Family Center for the Study of Antisemitism and the Holocaust, and based on teacher input, we respectfully urge you to consider and address the following significant shortcomings:  

1.       The current Holocaust Studies Program Planner has negligible training and zero teaching expertise relative to the Holocaust and antisemitism.

2.       There have been no improvements or updates to the District’s Holocaust curriculum since 2019, in terms of its content, learning objectives, pedagogy, and outcomes assessment.

3.       The District lacks a developed, functioning Holocaust education website; the link to the website does not even appear to work. 

4.    The Program Planner cannot possibly be monitoring the Holocaust curriculum that the teachers are using because the teachers have never been asked to furnish that information.

5.      The Program Planner has not held a single meeting with the District’s Holocaust instructors and district administrators.

6.     Many if not all of the Holocaust Studies teachers have not received a phone call from the Program Planner to discuss the current program. 

Particularly given the alarming rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world, all these shortcomings are deeply concerning.  We are all committed to ensuring that the School District provides the most effective and evidence-based Holocaust education. 

Commendably, Florida law (Section 1003.42(g)) requires Holocaust education in the public school system.  Implementing this legal mandate in Palm Beach County is more important than ever.  The 2018 incident of then Spanish River High School principal William Latson refusing to acknowledge the Holocaust as a “factual, historical event” was extremely troubling. Just as troubling are recent survey results (details here and here), which show how ignorant young people are about the systematic extermination of six million Jews and entire Jewish communities throughout Europe.

Despite Florida law mandating Holocaust education, our state’s millennials scored among the lowest when it comes to knowledge about the Holocaust.  Such ignorance can often lead to thoughtless and cruel words and actions – and it has in this School District.  On many occasions, Jewish students have endured jokes about the Holocaust made by fellow students, swastikas defacing bathroom walls and desks, and texts joking about the Holocaust on Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

All of this points to a critical need to improve the study of the horrors of the Holocaust and antisemitism in public schools.  In 2019, recognizing this need, the Florida Department of Education voted to impose a reporting requirement on the Holocaust Studies programs on every school district in the state (6A-1.094124). Districts risk losing state funding if they are not adequately teaching about the history and horrors of the Holocaust. It is difficult to believe that the District can be complying with this legal mandate if teachers have minimal if any contact with the Program Planner and receive little to no input or direction.

The need for top-notch Holocaust education is more important than ever.  The Palm Beach County School District has an opportunity to become a national leader in Holocaust education. 

We look forward to hearing from you about the steps that the District will be taking to improve Holocaust education in Palm Beach County.  We are ready to assist in any way. 

---PLEASE INDICATE WHETHER YOU ARE A STUDENT OR PARENT OF A STUDENT IN YOUR SIGNATURE---

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